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In a survival situation you will need some sort of fuel in order to cook food. Fortunately, camping technology is getting better all the time so we have many options that are clean, affordable and long-lasting. Depending on the application, fuels utilized are propane, kerosene, butane, alcohol, and gasoline. There are other fuels out there, but this is just a start. There is also a solid fuel in the form of a tablet that can be used. When it comes to fuel, the main things you want to consider are cleanliness and convenience.
- Gasoline and Kerosene will burn the dirtiest of all the fuels mentioned above, leaving soot on your cookware or walls along with smoke and odor. Also, gasoline has a shorter shelf-life than the other fuels (especially if it has ethanol in it). You shouldn’t store gas for more than six months unless you’re using Sta-bil.
- Propane, butane and alcohol are very clean and will leave little to no residue behind. However, if you are using these indoors or in an enclosed area, be very careful about the carbon monoxide. It’s generally safest to never cook in a small enclosed area without some adequate ventilation. Consider getting a carbon monoxide detector.
- Wood and charcoal are both very dirty burning, but they have their advantages. If you live in an area with a lot of trees then wood should be plentiful, and charcoal is fairly cheap to stock up on.
You want to maximize your fuel input with what you get out so that you are minimizing waste. It would be ridiculous to burn several logs just to boil a cup of water.
- If you are looking to boil a cup of water in a few minutes, then a camp stove will be your best bet. A pocket Rocket works great for this, rated at boiling a cup of water in 3.5 minutes! If you want to cook a large dinner, then setting up the campfire with wood and/or coal would be a good idea.
- Sterno is a great way to cook a small meal. It’s just alcohol which comes in a jelly form in a canister and it can be stored for a very long time. A 7 ounce canister will burn for about 2 hours.
- Propane and butane offer the advantage of having no priming or pouring. Just attach the cylinder, turn on the nozzle and light. However, at subfreezing temperatures they they operate less effectively than liquid fuels. Propane can be refilled though in large tanks which is good for cost.
- Kerosene tends to be smoky with a strong smell and requires priming. On the other hand, it’s economical and dependable and great for lighting if you have a simple oil lantern.